In John Milton’s epic, Paradise Lost, the author establishes Satan as the most complex and thought-provoking character in the tale through his depiction of Satan’s competing desires. Throughout the first four books of Paradise Lost, Satan repeatedly reveals his yearning both for recognition from God and, simultaneously, independence from God. The paradox that prevents Satan from achieving his desires may be interpreted as a suggestion of Milton’s establishment of a sympathetic reading for this character, as he cannot truly find happiness. In actuality, the construction of Satan’s rivaling aspirations evince Satan’s repulsive depravity to Milton’s audience and encourage readers to condemn his character.
In Paradise Lost, Satan’s most prominent desire circles around gaining autonomy from God. An eminent example of this is Satan’s instigation of a rebellion against God, which invariably leads to the fall of one-third of heaven’s angels. Satan frequently characterizes “the tyranny of heaven” and employs negative diction in his depictions of both heaven and God (I.124). His negative portrayals of God and his kingdom highlight his utter dissatisfaction with being subservient to God and, from that, his desire for autonomy. In the exposition of the text, Satan’s emotions toward God make themselves apparent when Satan “throws his baleful eyes / That witnessed huge affliction and dismay / Mixed with obdúrate pride and steadfast hate” (I.56-58). Satan reveals himself to be furious with his continued subjugation to God as well as his inability to truly revenge himself against his subsequent punishment. According to Satan, God’s dissimulation of his power tempted Satan and others to rise against him ...
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...great furnace”, “darkness visible” and “torture without end” highlight the incredible suffering Satan and his followers endure as a result of their actions (I.60-67). The negative consequences for Satan’s actions encourage readers of the epic to consider Satan’s actions scornfully.
In the first four books of John Milton’s epic, Paradise Lost, Satan’s competing desires revealed in the course of the text illuminate him as a fascinating and complex character. However, the construction of Satan’s rivaling aspirations depict Satan as an undesirable character to Milton’s audience. This results from Satan’s attempts to fulfill his desires and the subsequent consequences arising from his actions. For Milton’s readers, the clearly negative results to Satan’s endeavors highlights his unappealing aspects and encourages Milton’s audience to hold an antipathetic opinion of Satan.
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